(MENAFN- Digital solutions)
The sunglasses industry has not had a lot of focus placed on it in terms of innovation or new development. Technology is changing that. Hawkers is changing that premise, too. The startup, which began out of Saldum Ventures, a Spanish company, created a new type of sunglasses. These digital-first, vertically integrated sunglasses are set to take center stage over well-recognized brands like Ray-Ban.
Hawkers was founded in 2013. The company was launched by four friends in a Spanish university — Alex and David Moreno, Iñaki Soriano, and Pablo Sanchez. The product was straightforward and the interest from consumers was there. Yet, the company struggled with financial success right from the start. They even thought about shuttering the company as it initially failed to reach any real financial strength.
The product itself allows consumers to alter the lens and frame colors and styles to fit just about any need. The company has collaborated with dozens of well-known brands, including PlayStation, the LA Lakers, Usher, and Mercedes-Benz. An astounding 90 percent of the company’s sales come from the online consumer, who places ordered directly on the company’s site. In 2016, the company had sold 3.5 million pairs across 50 countries.
Finding Funding for Hawkers
In 2016, it received $56 million in funding, a portion of which came from O’Hara, the investment management group owned by Alejandro Betancourt. The company did not release its valuation initially before raising these funds, but it was profitable with $78 million in annual turnover in 2016 and expectations of growing sales in the years to follow. Experts pegged the valuation at around $60 million for the company.
The infusion of capital by O’Hara and Betancourt was critical for the continued development and growth of Hawkers. In short, without it, the company would not have moved beyond a startup idea from four college students.
There were numerous limitations on the company when it opened its doors. First, it had to compete against some of the most iconic brands in the industry — companies like Gucci and Ray-Ban, who had customers lining up to buy their sunglasses year after year. A key factor here is that many of these luxury sunglasses brands are purchased based on the brand itself. Regardless of the end price, it only costs a few dollars to make a pair of sunglasses, no matter what brand is on them. That meant these large companies have deep pockets when it comes to growth and development.
Developing and Growing a Brand
The four founders knew that they could sell a quality product when they created their business model. They also knew just how profitable this industry could be. They took $300 and purchased 27 pairs of Knockaround sunglasses to start with, reselling them at a profit. Demand in Spain grew, which led to marketing over the internet through Facebook ads. They used ads to recruit influencers who would take their product to the next level. Word-of-mouth strategy got the attention of investors, those who could help the four take their idea to the next level.
With the help of Betancourt’s financial infusion, along with a significant amount of publicity from its marketing efforts, Hawkers began to grow. The company’s simple product and transparency in what they were doing and how they were doing it helped them land key opportunities with brands such as PlayStation and Usher.
Betancourt Takes Hawkers to the Next Level
After the financial support from O’Hara and Betancourt, Hawkers would name him the company’s president in 2017. The move to replace him allowed the company to gain access to more customers and better investment opportunities. It allowed for the expansion the company needed. The reach allowed Hawkers to grow outside of Spain into Europe, Asia, and North America.
Betancourt remained by the company’s side in the coming years. In 2018, Betancourt added another $23 million in funding to support Hawkers’ growth. In that transaction, he also gained a 50 percent controlling interest in the company. By the end of the year, the company was recognized as one of the largest startups in Spain.
How Betancourt Transformed Hawkers Through His Leadership
Alejandro Betancourt’s early investment in Hawkers enabled the company to take steps toward growth right as it was considering folding under the pressure of big name brands. Those funds allowed the company to grow and raise more money in the coming years. This, along with its promising transparency and marketing strategy of reaching out directly to the customer, enabled Hawkers to grow into one of the country’s top-performing startups in just two years.
Today, Hawkers has much to offer. The company is selling in over 50 countries around the world and, as of 2021, has sold 4.5 million sunglasses globally. Reports indicate it is hitting $100 million in revenue annually as it does so.
It’s also important to consider the company’s presence online — where it has grown its brand from the ground up. Hawkers is recognized by over 6.6 million people on Facebook alone. Facebook itself has noted the success the company has had in marketing on the Facebook platform. It noted that Hawkers saw an 86 percent increase in its engagement through Facebook ads and a 51 percent return on ad spend in doing so.
The Latest From Hawkers
Hawkers has also made a few changes in the last few years as the company continues to grow and reach new customers. They now have numerous brick-and-mortar stores around the world, though the vast majority of its sales still happen online. The company has also launched a new line of eco-friendly products and designs, providing more reach for the company as they target more environmentally conscious consumers.
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